Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation, had a braid of sweet grass smoldering. A bird was calling from 150 yards away as a crowd gathered in Shelburne Bay Park to reflect on the spiritual and scientific importance of water on Saturday.
“In our culture the osprey is the fish eagle,” said Steven. “He’s been yipping at us from that telephone pole over there. He’s kind of being with us for the ceremony. That is a water bird and this is a water ceremony.”
Rev. Nancy Wright of Ascension Lutheran Church welcomed the group to the third annual Celebrating Sacred Waters.
She introduced representatives from the various religions and talked about how water “is respected and represented in all of the world’s religious traditions.”
After blessings from faiths including Lutheran, Jewish, Buddhist and Abenaki, those gathered split into two groups. Some went on a canoe paddle up the LaPlatte River and some explored Shelburne Bay Park’s nature trails.
The inspiration for these outings came from a conversation between Wright and Rev. Mary Abele of All Souls Interfaith Gathering. Abele, who was absent, was acknowledged for her inspiration and help in getting these outings started.
As the blessings ended and the two groups prepared to go on their separate treks, Stevens pointed out that the osprey had stopped yipping and flown away.
The canoeists each took a vial to fill with water from the LaPlatte. After over an hour of paddling, they returned and emptied their vials into a bowl and participated in a closing ceremony.
The event was supported by All Souls Interfaith Gathering, Ascension Lutheran Church, ECHO Leahy Center, Lake Champlain Committee, Sea Grant Lake Champlain, New England Grassroots Fund, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, and Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, which also supplied canoes, lifejackets, paddles and two guides.
Wright has just co-authored and published a 39-page watershed manual. It can be downloaded at https://vow4climate.org/manual-order-form-congregational-watershed-manuals.